So you’ve decided it’s time to add another member to your family. Trying to conceive is a very exciting time. You’re imagining baby names, dreaming up the perfect nursery design, and figuring out what type of mother you want to be. One important thing to consider during this time is your diet. You don’t have to wait until you’re pregnant to start eating healthy. In fact, one of the best ways to ensure you give your new baby the best start to life is with a pre-conception diet. So we’ve put together a guide of all the essential nutrients to help you conceive and ensure that both mommy and baby are healthy. We’ve also included some delicious recipes, so you can make sure that you are not only getting the proper nutrition, but you are enjoying your diet makeover.
Essential Nutrition You Need For Conception
A well balanced diet, complete with exercise is essential when you are trying to conceive a child. However, there are certain nutrients that can really give you a biological advantage during this time. Here are some of the key nutrients to incorporate into your diet:
Omega-3 Fatty Acids Help You Get Pregnant:
Omega-3 fatty acids are what are often called “good fats” and they are an essential ingredient to a conception diet. Research has shown that omega-3 fatty acid EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) not only help support your whole health and well-being but can actually improve fertility. These omega-3 fatty acids help regulate ovulation so that your “fertility window” is more consistent. This can help you time your fertility schedule giving you a greater chance of success. EPA and DHA can also improve egg quality and delay aging of the ovaries, both will make it more likely you will get pregnant.
Sources of omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA include seafood and fish/krill oils, flax seeds, eggs, and dairy products. So make sure you incorporate these into your diet. However, when incorporating seafood be careful of your mercury consumption because it is very bad for the baby. Focus on smaller fishes like sardines, anchovies, and herring. Larger fishes like tuna, swordfish, mackerel, and shark because they have high levels of mercury.
Iron Prepares Your Body For Pregnancy:
Iron is an essential nutrient for women because our menstruation cycle routinely depletes our body of iron. Iron is necessary for hemoglobin, myoglobin, and collagen production. So it is one of the most important nutrients to consume while you are pregnant. Consuming an iron-rich diet while you are trying to conceive has so many benefits. First, it helps improve your energy and your immune system, which helps your body prepare for pregnancy. Secondly, because women deplete their iron resources regularly, it is important to make sure that your body has a strong stock of iron for when your body is ready to conceive a child. So it is important to start eating an iron-rich diet the moment you decide you are ready to try to get pregnant. If you do not have enough iron while you are pregnant it can negatively impact the health of your baby and put you at risk for iron-deficiency anemia during and after pregnancy.
Sources of iron include meats like red meat, pork, poultry, and seafood, beans, dark leafy greens like kale, broccoli, and Swiss chard, dried fruit, and even iron-fortified grains. You want to make sure you are getting an average of 27 mg of iron a day when you are trying to conceive.
Vitamin C Increases Fertility:
Studies have shown that increasing your consumption of vitamin C can help you become more fertile. Vitamin C helps regulate your hormones, especially in cases of low progesterone levels or in the case of an estrogen imbalance. A healthy hormonal balance is key to getting pregnant. Vitamin C also helps your body absorb iron and strengthens your immune system, two key factors in a successful conception. Studies have also shown that women who have a diet rich in vitamin C doubled their chances of getting pregnant. So it is essential you incorporate foods rich in vitamin C into your diet.
Sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, and grapefruit, bell peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, peas, papayas, and berries like raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries. Nutritionists recommend that women who are trying to conceive get at least 85 mg of vitamin C a day, but no more that 1800 mg.
B Vitamins Improves Ovulation:
B vitamins are vital to helping you build red blood cells and increase your energy, so they are important for any woman’s diet. Vitamin B6 and vitamin B12, however are essential for fertility. Like vitamin C, vitamin B6 helps balance hormonal levels. Vitamin B6 also reduces the risk of miscarriage because it helps improve low progesterone levels. Paired with vitamin B12, vitamin B6 can also strengthens ovulation and increases the chances of successful ovulation. Vitamin B12 also strengthens the inner lining of the uterus, making a better environment for the implantation of fertilized eggs. So both vitamin B6 and vitamin B12 are essential to ensuring you have production ovulation.
Sources of vitamin B6 include meats like chicken, fish, turkey, and pork, pistachio nuts, sunflower seeds, dried fruits, spinach, avocado, and bananas. Sources of vitamin B12 include fish, meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products like milk, cheese, and ice cream. Vitamin B12 is very hard to get from plant-based sources, so if you are on a vegetarian or vegan diet, you should supplement your vitamin B12 with a B-complex vitamin or find products like cereals fortified with B12.
Folic Acid Helps Boost Egg Production:
Folic acid (vitamin B9) is an essential vitamin that should be taken through the entire course of your pregnancy from conception to postpartum. Folic acid is essential for egg production. A diet rich in folic acid during conception not only helps your body produce more eggs, but your eggs will be stronger. A recent study showed that women who ate a diet rich in folic acid were 40% more likely to conceive. Folic acid is also great for the health of your baby because it can prevent birth defects like spina-bifida and reduces the chance of miscarriage. Finally, folic acid has been shown to reduce the chances of postpartum depression and increase your post-birth recovery time.
Sources of folic acid include leafy greens like spinach, kale, and broccoli, beets, asparagus, rice, pasta, beans, bread, cereal, and citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, and grapefruit. Nutritionists recommend consuming 400 mcg of folic acid per day.
Foods To Avoid While Trying To Conceive
- Alcohol: Though a glass of wine or a beer won’t necessarily hurt your chances of fertility, alcohol has numerous negative effects on your health that can impact your fertility. During this time, it is best to just cut down on alcohol consumption, or cut it out completely if you can.
- Refined Sugar: PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) is the number one cause of infertility in women and worsens during insulin spikes. Refined sugars can spike your insulin, increasing your risk of infertility.
- Caffeine: Studies have shown that consuming more than 500 mg of caffeine a day interferes with fertility. Caffeine can be especially damaging to women going through in-vitro fertilization. Though you don’t need to cut caffeine completely from your diet, you should keep it to one cup of coffee, tea, or soda a day.
Prenatal Supplements To Take While Trying To Conceive
Since it is difficult with our busy schedules to always eat right, there are a couple of supplements to consider adding to your conception diet to ensure you are getting all the nutrition you need:
- Prenatal Vitamins: Though prenatal vitamins are designed specifically for pregnancy; they can be really beneficial during conception. They provide not only the crucial nutrients like iron, vitamin C, b vitamins, and folic acid, they also offer all the other vitamins and minerals you need to help support the health and development of your baby.
- Fish, Krill, or Flaxseed Oil: Fish, krill, and flaxseed oils are power-packed with the omega-3 fatty acids your pre-pregnancy body needs. Plus, they are the safest way to get omega-3s if you are concerned about mercury exposure.
- Probiotics: Having a healthy bacterial balance in your uterus can help make the conditions more favorable for conception. Probiotics help support the good bacteria that fight against the bad bacteria that can damage your uterus walls and your eggs.
Five Delicious Conception Recipes
When trying to conceive you can start taking prenatal vitamins to make sure that you are getting all of these important nutrients. However, you should also tailor your diet to include some of these foods. Here are our five favorite recipes to give your diet a conception makeover:
Ancient grains like buckwheat are fantastic for your conception diet. They are easy to incorporate into your favorite recipes plus they are loaded with essential iron and b-vitamins.
Plus, they have tons of calcium and protein, that can help your baby develop strong muscles and bones. This buckwheat pancake recipe is healthy and delicious. Top them with your favorite berries for a boost vitamin C or through a tablespoon of ground flax seeds in to get those essential omega-3s.
Another ancient grain to consider including in your conception diet makeover is quinoa. Quinoa is loaded with iron and b vitamins. The dried raisins and cranberries add even more iron and vitamin B6, but also provide a load of vitamin C. The hummus made with garbanzo beans provides even more vitamin b6, as well as omega-3 fatty acids and folic acid. The best part about this delicious recipe is it’s simple to make ahead. So you can make a lot of it at once and enjoy it all week.
Who doesn’t love chips and salsa for a quick snack? This recipe is power-packed with all the nutrients you will need while you are trying to conceive. The tomato and mangoes provide loads of vitamin C and B6.
The avocado adds even more vitamin c and B6, and also provides folic acid and omega-3 fatty acids. A tablespoon of olive oil also boosts the amount of omega-3s. Paired with an iron-fortified whole grain chip or even served over vitamin B12-rich chicken breast, this salsa is the perfect nutrient-dense snack your body needs while trying to conceive.
Salmon is a great low-mercury fish that is loaded with the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DA you need during conception. Paired with iron, B-vitamin, and folic acid rich kale, this is a fantastic option for a conception dinner. Plus, with the delicious, tang of lemon and the salty balance of pecorino cheese, you will also get a necessary boost of vitamin C and vitamin B6.
Satisfying your sweet tooth can be hard when you are trying to cut refined sugar. Luckily these delicious brownies not only cut out the sugar but are made with a ton of conception-friendly ingredients. The brownies use a base of beans that are loaded with b vitamins, iron, folic acid, and vitamin c.
Then you add eggs and dairy for the essential omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA and finally, pecans help boost the vitamin B6. Since these are made without sugar, they won’t spike your insulin level so you can eat as many as you’d like without any worries.
So if you are ready to add a new member to your family, consider a conception diet makeover. With the right nutrition you can not only increase your chances of getting pregnant, but ensure that both you and your baby are healthy. So add these nutrients to your diet, with either some great supplements or these five conception-promoting recipes!